BC announces one-time $430 rent relief benefit to low-income seniors | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source
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BC announces one-time $430 rent relief benefit to low-income seniors

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VICTORIA - The British Columbia government is granting a one-time $430 benefit to the roughly 20,000 seniors in its support program for elderly low-income renters.

B.C. Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon says eligible seniors don't need to apply for the payment, which will be sent out this month.

Kahlon says the Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters program, known as SAFER, will also expand eligibility for its benefits to seniors with annual incomes up to $37,240, compared to the previous $33,000 limit.

Other changes will include the possible annual review and amendment of rent ceilings, which are used to determine how much rental assistance a senior receives.

BC Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau says in a statement that the changes were a "positive development" but not enough, calling for the province to raise the threshold for qualifying seniors to $45,000 for individuals and $50,000 for couples.

Former B.C. seniors advocate Isobel Mackenzie had criticized the seniors aid program in her final report last month, saying the average Vancouver rent is more than double the maximum monthly subsidy of $803 a month.

Mackenzie said at the time that the rent ceiling should be raised to meet the average rent of a SAFER recipient and be allowed to increase annually to address allowable yearly rent increases in B.C.

Furstenau says the latest changes to SAFER do not resolve those concerns.

“Relying on one-time benefits as a solution is ineffective and short-sighted," she says. "It fails to address the systemic issues at play, leaving seniors to continually choose between essentials like medication, food or heating."

Kahlon says the improvements reflect the province's response given "the dollars we had available."

"These supports are important, but this is just one of the things that we're doing to support seniors," Kahlon says, referring to renter tax credits and efforts to expand affordable housing options.

"So we are doing a lot of different steps to support seniors," he says. "This, I think, is just one additional piece that will help some of the more vulnerable seniors in our communities."

Kahlon says the province expects the number of seniors under SAFER to grow to 25,000 with the new, expanded eligibility threshold.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 9, 2024.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2024
The Canadian Press

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